Former Indians pitcher Sam McDowell tells all in new book, ‘The Saga of Sudden Sam’ – News-Herald

Sam McDowell hasn’t thrown a baseball in years.

It’s mostly because his body — his left shoulder specifically — has broken down over the years.

He’s 79 — and will turn 80 this September. He still sports an impressive full head of flowing gray hair.

McDowell’s wit hasn’t left to him, nor the stories. So it’s easy to understand why after years he’s finally penned his autobiography.

McDowell has partnered with local author Marty Gitlin — a former News-Herald sports writer — for the recently released “The Saga of Sudden Sam: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of Sam McDowell.”

Former Indians pitcher Sam McDowell with co-author Marty Gitlin March 25 at the Strongsville Sports Collectors Convention to promote McDowell’s book, “The Saga of Sudden Sam.” (Mark Podolski—The News-Herald)

“I’m not joking when I say 20, 30 years,” said McDowell on March 25 at the Strongsville Sports Collectors Convention on the longevity of his book project. “I was always thinking about writing a book. A lot of guys asked, but I said. ‘Nah.’ ”

Nah became a yeah, and he’s ready to tell his story.

A longtime fan favorite of Indians fans, McDowell was a hard-throwing 6-foot-5 lefty who made six American League All-star teams from 1965 to 1971, and led the AL in strikeouts five times during a six-year period.

One of his best seasons was 1970, when he was 20-12 with a 2.92 ERA and struck out 304. In 1965, he had a career-high 325 strikeouts and led the AL with a 2.18 ERA.

In 15 seasons, he was 141-134 with a 3.17 ERA with 2,453 strikeouts in 2,492.1 innings pitched.

Former Indians pitcher Sam McDowell in 1964 during spring training. (Associated Pressfile)

McDowell was also a bit of a “wild thing” as led the AL in walks five times.

McDowell also battled alcoholism — a topic he freely talks about. His recovery from him and work as a therapist and counselor has been well-documented through the years. McDowell tells that side of the story in his book by him, which he hopes provides readers with an understanding of addiction and that recovery is attainable.

“I wanted a book that might help somebody,” said McDowell, who lives in Florida.

When McDowell agreed to work with Gitlin on the book, the first thing he did was send Gitlin a plethora of information, which was a perfect starting point.

“Wonderful thoughts and memories,” said Gitlin. “A huge treasure trove. I knew we had something then.”

The book has been a success since its March 9 release. The first printing has already sold out, according to Giltin.

“I am quite surprised and shocked,” said McDowell, whose hobbies include painting, landscaping and building model ships.

Similar to Herb Score, McDowell’s powerful fastball — clocked at more than 100 mph during his heyday — was the attraction, but he admits there was likely more as to why he became a fan favorite.

“I was also a little bit of a wild hair,” said McDowell. “Not just because I walked a lot of people because I was a little wild off the field too. Even before alcoholism. I was an off-the-wall guy. I wore cowboy outfits. I went to gun-smithing school.”

He also wants to set the record straight on disputes with the likes of former Indians general manager Gabe Paul, former Indians manager Birdie Tebbets and Joe Adcock, who went from a teammate of McDowell to his manager.

There were also major disputes between McDowell and the Indians when he was sent to the minors in 1964.

“My manager called all my pitches,” he said. “I hated that.”

Many arguments were explosive, and some nearly led to fist fights.

“Close to it,” said McDowell.

McDowell said the attempt to include those fights wasn’t too sensationalize the book but rather to set the record straight.

“There are so many intricacies that nobody knew,” he said. “People didn’t know what was going on. We now finally explain it.”

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